ARLINGTON — The last person Tim McCorkle expected to see when he stepped outside in July was a Buddhist monk walking along the road in front of his home, heading slowly but surely toward downtown Arlington.
He offered the visiting monk, the Venerable Shi Zhan Li from Taiwan, a ride into town and a tour of the area. The two got to talking about Buddhism in Snohomish County. McCorkle, who grew up in a Catholic family but later converted, knows of about 400 practicing Buddhists in the area. They don’t tend to get together, he said. There’s no place nearby to do so.
Shi took that information back to the Life Foundation, an organization based in Taiwan that runs 24-hour Buddhist television programming and sends monks to teach around the world.
Less than four months later, Shi is back in Snohomish County, working with McCorkle and other volunteers to build a Dharma Learning Center in Arlington Heights, east of Arlington.
It’s not a new idea, but rather a decades-old dream getting a second wind. More than 5 acres were donated to the Dharma Learning Association, an Arlington-based nonprofit started in 1988. A 2,500-square-foot house on the property and the expansive yard can be used for lessons or meditation, but the association didn’t think they had enough support to build a center.
McCorkle and Shi figured the center can remain a long-term goal, but education and companionship shouldn’t wait.
Shi is the first of a rotating group of monks from the Life Foundation who plan to visit Snohomish County and offer lessons in meditation and mindfulness, along with answering questions about Buddhist teachings.
“We believe in karma. You have to plant a good cause,” Shi said. “Good begets good and bad begets bad. It’s not just a religion, it’s a way of life. Now we want to bring this to Arlington and Everett and the Snohomish County.”
Two events are scheduled before Shi returns to Taiwan in late November. The first is an open question-and-answer session at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the second is a presentation on the Buddhist way of life at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7. Both are at the Firewheel Community Coffeehouse, 2727 Colby Ave. in Everett.
Buddhism welcomes people of all faiths, Shi said. People can learn to meditate and chant without giving up their perspectives on religion or society.
“Our aim in our organization is to help people seek their own inner happiness,” Shi said. “You do not have to follow me because I am a monk. We are not a fanatic organization. We are a place of choice.”
He envisions eventually building a center where people from different backgrounds can learn and share their experiences.
“Anyone can come in and it is free of charge, you only need to bring material things,” he said. “You can come chant or meditate and all are welcome.”
The center would be built on the donated property at 12421 235th St. NE. It goes against the Buddhist tradition to ask for money or supplies, so there will be no fundraisers, McCorkle said. If someone offers to help with the center, they will accept money or supplies through the Dharma Learning Association. If no one offers funding or equipment, lessons can be held on the property or at other locations around the county, such as the Firewheel Coffee House.
“It throws a lot of people because the lamas (Buddhist teachers) don’t ask for anything,” McCorkle said. “People keep waiting for the hook. There is no hook.”
A website is in the works with more information about the association, meeting times and plans for a Dharma Learning Center. In the meantime, people can direct questions to McCorkle at firstname.lastname@example.org.